year, 70 million visitors flock to Florida in hopes of
experiencing the thrill of the theme parks, beaches and
night clubs that make the Sunshine State famous. While
Florida is well known for the glitz and glamour of the
roller coasters and palm trees, this state is also home
to approximately 4,000 miles of nature trails - from the
depths of the Everglades to the heights of the tallest
trees in the Apalachicola National Forest. These parks
and trails offer excellent opportunities for discovering
the unique natural beauty of Florida's wildlife, by land
or sea. Whether your preferred method of transportation
along Florida's trails is a horse, a bike, a kayak or your
own two feet, an assortment of options exist for the backwoods
Pensacola to Key West, a wide variety of nature trails
are available for public use across the state of Florida.
While the mention of a "trail" often evokes thoughts
of hiking tree lined paths with a walking stick, Florida
also has many unique water trails twisting throughout the
interior of the state. Though surrounded by water on three
sides, Florida's interior is also bathed in water due to
"Karst topography," an irregular situation in
which a thin layer of topsoil sits on top of soft limestone.
The limestone is continually eroded by groundwater, leaving
gaping holes in the rock. These holes collect water resulting
in lakes, rivers and springs. This invisible source of
water creates a unique condition that provides Florida
with 7,800 lakes, 1,700 rivers and creeks, and more than
350 springs. The deepest known spring in the world is located
at Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee, Florida!
water trails abound in a wide variety of ecological wonders
such as mangroves, many different types of birds, sunken
rivers, caverns and even the occasional manatee family
moseying along. All of Florida's major cities are within
one hour of a paddling trail, with plenty of opportunity
for kayaking and canoeing. No technical paddling skills
are needed, making these water trails appropriate for beginning
or recreational kayakers and canoeists.
organization providing recreational opportunities through
conservation is the Rails to Trails Conservancy (www.railtrails.org). This national effort creates a network of public
nature trails from abandoned railway lines. Often times
these lines stretch through undeveloped pieces of land,
creating an exciting riding surface and an excellent opportunity
to view wildlife. More than 30 trails of this type have
been created in Florida, offering a multitude of activities
such as hiking, biking, rollerblading and horseback riding.
With Florida's warm climate and gentle terrain, these trails
are suitable for both novice and experienced bikers and
inspection of the many ecological delights of Florida reveals
a total of more than 470 verified species of birds, making
Florida something of a giant aviary. Fortunately, many
trails in Florida are designed around bird habitats, creating
an amazing opportunity to discover and observe Florida's
diverse species of birds. The Great Florida Birding Trail
unifies birding sites through a series of clusters in different
regions of the state. Each cluster, selected because of
its great bird-watching or bird education opportunities,
highlights special ecosystems and communities of birds.
Florida is home to an incredible variety of birds that
are rare and nonexistent in other parts of the United States,
including the Florida burrowing owl and the scrub-jay.
and Trails, a division of Florida's Department of Environmental
is one organization that makes it easy to discover Florida's
natural side through a statewide system of 11 trails and
greenways for both recreation and conservation purposes.
Greenways and Trails, in conjunction with Florida State
also provides trails through 12 state parks. Many of these
parks offer campsites and cabins for overnight stays. The
Florida Trail Association (www.florida-trail.org), a non-profit
private partner with Greenways and Trails, offers information
and guidebooks about the many trails in Florida. The Florida
Trail Association also hosts many activities throughout
the year, including guided hiking tours and even maintenance
hikes to ensure proper upkeep of the trails.
close in proximity to Florida's top tourism spots, the
slower pace of Florida's natural side offers a complementary
alternative to the bustle of crowds. This creates a unique
experience for visitors to observe and experience nature
in a temperate and beautiful setting. While the thrill
of roller coasters is undeniable, Florida's nature trails
ensure the ride of your life.
more information about Florida's natural side, pick up
a copy of Undiscovered Florida, a magazine and guide produced
by VISIT FLORIDA featuring various nature, historical and
cultural heritage offerings throughout the Sunshine State.
Undiscovered Florida contains nine themed feature stories
designed to take travelers off-the-beaten-path and on to
discover some of Florida's best-kept secrets that are waiting
to be discovered. Travelers can receive a free copy of
the Undiscovered Florida magazine by calling 1-888-7FLAUSA
(1-888-735-2872) or by visiting www.flausa.com and going to "Tools" and then "Vacation
information on travel to Florida or to order a copy of
VISIT FLORIDA's free Vacation Guide visit VISIT FLORIDA's
consumer web site, www.VISITFLORIDA.com, or call VISIT
FLORIDA's toll-free consumer number at 1-888-7-FLAUSA (352872).